It’s a great time of year to be in the boating business. September marks the start for many of us to commence hopscotching around the country and abroad to attend big industry events in Newport, R.I., Annapolis, Md., Tampa, Fla., Southampton, U.K., Cannes, France, and Amsterdam, Holland. From the Cote d’Azur to the revamped Tampa Convention Center, the scores of face-to-face reunions (buh-bye Zoom) slated to take place will be imbued with much more meaning and a shared sense of optimism for a return to normalcy.
For our Global Show Preview, we spoke to organizers of some of the largest industry events. While each of the leaders discussed what they learned from the pandemic’s widespread cancellation of in-person events — and the relative success of virtual shows — all emphasized the vitality and importance of shows to thrust the industry forward and lean into the cometlike success we have achieved during the past 18 months.
“I think the industry knows we need this show,” says International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference show director Anne Dunbar in “Together Again” (Page 22). “It’s responsible for advancing boating and for better boats.”
Industry stakeholders seem to agree. The 30th iteration of the IBEX show, set for Sept. 28-30 at the Tampa Convention Center and waterfront in Florida, has seen a mammoth response — it’s nearly sold out at the time of this writing. Organizers are looking to add even more dock space nearby, as all on-site slips are spoken for.
The team at Metstrade is experiencing a similar cavalcade of attendees looking to return to the RAI Amsterdam in mid- November, with more than 1,300 exhibitors signed on to attend the Nov. 16-18 event. To ensure success, show director Niels Klarenbeek told Soundings Trade Only (“Metstrade Ramps Up,” Page 24) that his team has reduced the show’s overall footprint, enacted strict Covid protocols — including a no-handshake policy and a green zone around the facility — and introduced Metstrade TV as a new component.
British Marine is looking to bounce back after the last-minute cancellation of Boats 2020, which was supposed to be a scaled-down version of the called-off Southampton International Boat Show. As you may recall, organizers received the news on the cusp of opening day that Boats 2020 could not go on, with the city’s council fearing a super-spreader event.
This year’s Southampton show will have wider walkways, a Covid passport (or a negative test within 24 hours) and a revamped layout for better airflow. British Marine president Ian Cooke also says the team plans to capitalize on the boom in boating by catering to seasoned boaters and newcomers alike (see “Preparing for the Show To Go On,” Page 18). Case in point: There’s a new zone dedicated to water-sports enthusiasts.
“This is a fantastic opportunity,” Cooke says, “not only for our traditional boating companies and boaters, but for a whole new raft … of potential boaters.”
Even with dealers still hamstrung by supply-chain issues and low inventory levels, there’s no better place to do business than an in-person show. In a cogent guest column (“The Time Is Now,” Page 14), National Marine Manufacturers Association senior vice president of boat and sport shows Jennifer Thompson highlights the importance of building and maintaining long-term brand equity, as well as meeting the next generation of potential boaters.
“The boat show experience is unparalleled, providing both a strong sales venue and a powerful marketing engine for our industry,” Thompson says.
You will find those same sentiments throughout this issue. Simply put, there’s no locale more popular with boat owners and potental clients than a big ol’ boat show.
For a few of the massive events, such as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and February’s Miami shows — now the joint Miami International Boat Show — several of us from the Active Interest Media Marine Group team tend to arrive a few days prior to opening day. We get settled in and come up with a plan to cover press conferences, yacht premieres, lectures and other events.
I love the anticipation and the behind-the-scenes undertaking that goes into pulling off these events. If you see me walking the docks, dodging forklifts and gigantic cable runs, come on over and say hello with an elbow bump to celebrate our return.
This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue.